“Eighty per cent of tobacco produced in the EU is oriental or burley tobacco, 9000 grows in Poland, Italy, Spain, France and Bulgaria. The tobacco crop is worth 560 million euros in the EU so what will those parliamentarians tell the manufacturers and the farmers in those countries if they ban ingredients,” president of the International Tobacco Growers Association Francois van der Merwe told CNBC Africa.
“The effect of ingredients banned means that traditionally US-blended cigarettes can’t be manufactured anymore. Blended cigarettes is just what it means: it’s made up of a blend of different varieties of Virginia, burley tobacco and oriental. Some of the ingredients have technological purposes like controlling the burn rate, acting as binders and fillers, preventing the tobacco from degrading.”
According to van der Merwe, the proposed amendment is not evidence-based and has not consulted stakeholders, including tobacco manufacturers and farmers.
The proposed regulation is also threatening the jobs of more than 850,000 burley leaf tobacco farmers in Europe, Africa and the United States.
“In Africa we have two major burley-producing countries, Malawi and Mozambique. Malawi is one of the least developed countries in the world. Sixty per cent of their exports come from tobacco, 15 per cent of GDP comes from tobacco, 750,000 farmers, 1.4 million jobs, five million dependants,” van der Merwe explained.
In Mozambique, where there are roughly 100,000 burley leaf farmers, there are schools, clinics, clean drinking water and public services all built around tobacco. The implementation of the regulation could decimate livelihoods and eradicate the significant contribution tobacco has in the country.
“If you take tobacco out of Africa, Africa will be a poor place and there will be no health benefits because the tobacco will be produced elsewhere, the cigarettes will be produced elsewhere,” said van der Merwe.
“If blended cigarettes cannot be manufactured anymore, smokers have two choices: either they move to Virginia-style cigarettes, which is about 50 per cent consumption of the world. If they still demand blended cigarettes, it will be manufactured on the black market. So we will just enhance illicit trade, which is already 10 to 12 per cent of the global market.”